Christopher Nolan is back to make time. The maestro brainy blockbusters is bringing a new film this week as the film industry has high hopes of returning to the era before COVID-19 closes theaters, and fairly enough that the movie is based on time-lapse actions. But is Tenet in the wrong place at the wrong time?
The film begins in a crowded theater, a completely unrelated element that has been heavily charged during the coronavirus epidemic. Understandably, the characters spend a lot of time covering their faces, which they feel is appropriate as most viewers will be wearing masks again – a reduction of two hours and 30 minutes. Covering the faces of the stars is not exactly helpful in following this story, because it is hard enough to keep track of a complex structure even if you see everyone’s face.
But those are small things. The big question is whether it is safe to go to the movies, and that depends on where you are. Like all film fans, you may want to sponsor cinema, and the movie industry rides heavily on Tenet as the only summer blockbuster left with a chance to bring viewers back to the troubled stadiums. But even the most intellectual action should not endanger your life.
Tenet opened worldwide on August 26, and opened in US September 3 (here’s how to avoid online spoilers). The good news is that the movie is designed to be viewed in different formats. See it on the big screen and you will be able to see the spectacle, or you can wait for the broadcast and TV to watch it with the help of subtitles. And a notebook. And many long strands of Reddit.
John David Washington is crazy about watching as he moves from one to the other, making chin-ups hanging over the big drops and passing through more clothes than a model in the Esquire case. He is the Black James Bond of this dignified world, who does not shrink his three-piece suit as he releases Russian-style headbands on any kitchen appliances. He’s not the guy they send him to negotiate, but he’s the person they send him to do things and he looks good doing it.
Speaking of 007, the reputation of some superspies inevitably hangs over Tenet. A globetrotting adventure full of good people doing bad things, the Tenet building is built on an old Bond formula with a Thunderball dash here, the light of The Man With the Golden Gun there, Skyfall decoration on top. But Nolan goes with it this way, the real James Bond fights in his hands when he returns in November No Time to Die.
With any other director, Tenet may feel like a popular spy tax investigation, but Dr. No-Lan doesn’t need to prove he can make a Bond film. Instead, he has proven that there is no such thing as a Christopher Nolan film. When it comes to smart and amazing blockbusters with a sci-fi twist, no one does better. Which means Nolan has set himself a top bar, and Tenet has to stretch to improve exactly the start.
Yes, Tenet is very complex. Even before things get out of hand, you need to make an effort to keep track of what is happening (check out our heavy end-of-life guide and answers to all your WTF questions). The mission begins with a subplot about an art fraud that mainly involves people sitting in light-lit dining rooms, chasing endless names and political struggles with their starred Michelin food. Call it the lunch break. We never found out exactly what Michael Caine ordered during his cameo in the restaurant, but as he chewed on the mysterious talk about the secret Soviet cities, he realized it was a salad word.
Don’t worry if you don’t remember all the details, though. There is a good boy and a bad boy and a woman caught between them, and something everyone wants to get before they destroy the world. Some are good to watch. That’s all right, though.
Good actors can sing the screen with their stellar presence, but they don’t have much else to work with. Well-designed clothes and gnomic one-liners do not hide much depth, which is a problem as travel time passes and you stick out without much emotional contact with these people.
It’s a bit lacking at this point to show Nolan’s lack of interest in showing off three-pronged people when he can play around with the changes of the moment, but that’s Tenet’s biggest problem. Nolan’s tendency to create cinematic cyphers instead of characters just intensified in Dunkirk, where he did not deliberately tell us about the characters and instead used his filmmaking skills to put them next to their horrible situation. Those empty letters gave Dunkirk something like “what can you do?” but that was the story of a real war; you don’t get that same viewer guide with a flashy action movie about time travelers made for you.
Unfortunately, similarity to Inception comes with a declining return. If the Dark Knight Rises were only The Dark Knight and not well, Tenet is basically Inception only and not well. The dreambapes of that 2010 blockbuster had layers and rules that created nerve-shredding skepticism and allowed for jaw-dropping, like the famous scene when a hotel enters a free fall and a series of battles literally climb the walls.
Tenet doesn’t hit that feature wow, probably because the rules and boundaries of the gimmick aren’t clearly drawn. For example, a first-time combat environment is exciting, but it is not entirely clear who is doing what or how the heroes can use the laws of this land to do cool things you will never see anywhere else. And without giving too much away, a time-lapse gimmick raises tensions in critical times. There may be a bearded conversation about the inevitability and freedom of choice, but you don’t want to feel like the characters are moving.
John David Washington is the man of the hour and Nolan has built up another interest in the accuracy of the Swiss clock. But if you are not ready to return to the stadium right now, you have all the time in the world to see Tenet elsewhere.
(The above Review first appeared on IndiaToday.Tech. For more reviews & updates About Bollywood & Hollywood Movies, log on to our website indiatoday.tech). (Images Used In this post are by their own copyright owners.)